dkSez : : : : : : Don Kahle's blog

Quips, queries, and querulous quibbles from the quirky mind of Don Kahle

Why do people say 'after dark' when what they mean is 'during dark'? After dark would be when it's light again, right? * There are 10 types of people in this world -- those who read binary, and those who don't. * I'm rethinking the whole brown rice thing. What if it's just more white liberal self-hatred? Whole wheat, honey, unbleached flour. All better. Sez who? * Eugene should be HQ for White People for Diversity. We'll fight for diversity to be included in books, which is where we know to look for it. * Give a man a fish and he'll eat for a day, but give a man a pillow, and he'll dream of steak. * What can you say about a state that puts the town of North Bend 225 miles southwest of Bend? We rely on visitors for entertainment.

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Housing, Havens and Hash

July 25th, 2014 · No Comments

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Not very long ago, the only cranes visible in Eugene were sandhill cranes in Delta Ponds heading south each autumn. But these days, Eugene hosts a bevy of taller cranes. Construction cranes loom above student housing projects, but will our economic ecosystem be able to support such a sudden surge?

More than a thousand new bedrooms are coming quickly available. That’s a lot of mouths to feed. Will they be filled this fall? The short answer is yes, if things stay the same. But things never stay the same, so here are three follow-up questions.

1. Will the Federal Reserve continue its policy of maintaining very low interest rates?

2. Will the University of Oregon’s national football brand continue to grow?

3. Will Oregon voters reject the legalization of marijuana for recreational use?

If the answer to all three questions is yes, then the current building boom will have reason to continue. If not, things will get more complicated.

Low interest rates have sent the investor class scurrying for safe but lucrative havens for their money. Investors who don’t want to send their money overseas have very few options to garner interest rates that approach 10 percent.

Large developers can show investors such impressive returns with university student housing projects. Their investment brochures can refer to a recession-proof revenue stream: federally administered student loans.

Alabama-based Capstone and Chicago-based Core Campus scour the country for college towns where student populations have been surging. Investors are attracted to Eugene, a town they have suddenly heard of. Thank you, ESPN.

Investors always look for assurances, and familiarity often fills that need. If you’re buying your first car, it helps that you’ve seen television ads of beautiful people being happy with that car. It’s less frightening if it feels familiar.

People investing millions in construction companies are no different. “Eugene, Oregon? Oh, I’ve heard of that place. Could you believe those neon-colored socks? I thought those colors would ruin our new television. Sure, put my money there.”

These buildings will fill up in the fall because they are new and they offer all the latest amenities. But those students will be moving out of other bedrooms around town, creating other vacancies. Older buildings will have a harder time attracting renters.

As renters have more choices, standards increase. Some landlords won’t meet those standards. They will put their buildings to other uses, or they will sell their properties.

Economists have a charming term for this cascading causality: creative destruction — “destruction” because the status quo crumbles, “creative” because something new takes its place. Once a four bedroom house a few blocks from the university no longer fetches $2,000 a month with no work from the owner, the unsolicited offer to buy the property for half a million dollars begins to look more attractive.

This is where the third question comes into play. Eugene’s ESPN-fueled reputation is contributing to this economic upswing, but an older reputation may counterbalance that momentum.

Two days ago I passed a young man with a dog, sitting in Kesey Square with a cardboard sign. “Why lie? Need money for weed.” I’m guessing the pitch works for him. In how many towns will that placard attract the same sort of response?

Denver, Boulder, Seattle, and Portland are not cities known for affordable rents and a low cost of living. If Oregon voters legalize marijuana in November, will Eugene attract a new group of people looking for a minimal living alternative?

Some of the most industrious people I know enjoy an occasional mind-altering inhalation. Legalizing drugs will always be a mixed (dime) bag. I have dozens of Frog’s joke books, but I’m not sure the venerable street peddler would rise to folk-hero status in other towns that may legalize marijuana for recreational use.

Will unscrupulous landlords defy the housing boom’s creative destruction by recruiting a new and lower class of renters, promising free Doritos and grow light fixtures with every annual lease?

Eugene has two new greens in its possible future: economic prosperity and pointy-leafed recreation. They may collide.


Don Kahle ( writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs

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Soccer, Politics, Life: Focus on the Goal

July 22nd, 2014 · No Comments

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I enjoyed watching the final World Cup soccer tournament games partly because I didn’t particularly care about any of the remaining teams that were playing. Once you’re not distracted by the players or the teams, you can marvel at the endurance and acrobatics of what the world calls “the beautiful game.”

No one would suggest that local politics is a beautiful game, especially recently, but I’ve been watching the slugfest over sick leave in much the same way. I’m not particularly rooting for either side, allowing me to watch instead how the game is being played.

Businesses should find a way to pay employees who want to work but can’t. Employees who feel valued and trusted in this way might then be less likely to quit or lie or steal office supplies. Whether and how government should nudge employers toward that sort of enlightenment is an open question.

I don’t think restaurants should tell me their bathroom policies before they have shown me their menu, but that doesn’t mean I’d favor a government mandate. I’m content quietly refusing to patronize those establishments that think first about the pot in the back and second about the pot on the stove.

Workers can make choices about where they work, except when they can’t. Many need to keep the job they have — regardless of the company’s sick-leave policy — so maybe there’s a role for government to play. It’s a close call. I don’t know which side to root for.

Let’s return to soccer, if only because it’s a more pleasant topic.

Soccer still allows ties. If a tie must be broken, there’s a shoot-out — but only after an extended overtime period of regular play, and the final score still is recorded as the tie that it was. Sometimes things are just equal. There’s no getting around that.

A tie steadfastly refuses to exalt one team over another, lifting the sport itself above the teams that played. The institution of the game matters more than the teams on the field.

Many attribute to Vince Lombardi that winning or losing matters less than how you play the game. That quote has a longer, and deeper, history. Sportswriter Grantland Rice in 1908 was trying to make a larger point in Alumnus Football:

For when the One Great Scorer comes to write against your name,
He marks – not that you won or lost – but how you played the Game.

Being a good sport is a good life strategy. In Rice’s view, it’s also — or especially — a good afterlife strategy.

I fear many Americans love winning more than sport itself. One football coach likened a tie to “kissing your sister.” The University of Oregon’s 0-0 tie with Oregon State University in 1983 is commonly referred to as “the worst football game ever.” But maybe the game was good and the teams were bad!

As Brazil was being blown out by Germany last week, Brazilian fans began booing their own team. I want to believe at least some of those fans were faulting their team for disgracing “the beautiful game.”

In much the same way, Hayward Field fans recently booed the Arizona track team because their coaches had sidelined a local competitor based on a technical lane violation. They weren’t booing a win or a loss. They were displeased with how the game was played.

And so we must return to the tussle between our local governments.

A majority on the Eugene City Council wants to require businesses to pay their sick (non) workers. The Lane County Board of Commissioners said “count us out.” If there’s a local umbrage shortage, it’s because our legislative leaders have been taking more than their share.

This newspaper’s editorial board, attempting to referee the skirmish, lifted yellow cards to each side in turn, scolding each for overreach. The issue is no longer about paid sick-leave policies. It’s not even about whether such policies should be regulated. It’s now about who gets to tell which employers what.

Politics is a “beautiful game” only when leaders work together to get things done. Winning isn’t everything. It’s how you play the game.


Don Kahle ( writes a column most Fridays for The Register-Guard and blogs

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Farewell to the Fare, Thanks to the Fair

July 22nd, 2014 · No Comments

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Oregon Country Fair has always specialized in the fantastic. Just because something isn’t true doesn’t mean you can’t believe it’s true, or that it will become true. Tinker Bell was right. If we only believe, it can come true.

For example, fret-free public transportation across the region, available to all for any purpose, at no cost — wouldn’t that be fantastic? Thanks to the Oregon Country Fair, for the next three days, it’s also true.

Free shuttle busses to the Fair have been available for years, but leaders of the Fair chose this year to simply underwrite the entire cost of LTD’s system for all riders, for all three days — as if to say, “Skip the fare; come to the Fair.”

Leaders of the Fair take their citizenship seriously. They have slowly widened their influence and philanthropy beyond its entrance gates. First they reclaimed their own parking lots, then they began helping Veneta in strategic ways. Now they want to share a vision for less carbon-intensive travel with you, whether you’re planning to attend the Fair or not.

Considering transportation alternatives can be frightening, in part because we’ve learned (i.e. been persuaded) to attach our choices to our identity. A self-described bicycle activist once confided in me that his movement was focused too much on winning a few converts and too little on connecting with the many who are curious.

What if I left my car at home this weekend? How will I learn how to get where I’m going? How much will it cost me, in money and time?

This weekend we can ask those very private questions in a very public way. If it catches on, every bus stop might begin to resemble Orientation Weekend around campus. Those who use the system can make themselves available to help those who are new to it.

You can take the bus to work today, bringing some reading material that’s been following you for a week and weighing down your commuter bag.

Imagine getting to and from Saturday Market without worrying about parking. How much stuff would you buy at Costco or Winco if you didn’t have a trunk to fill? Have you ever taken your bike on the bus (#91) out McKenzie Highway past Blue River and ridden (part of the way) back? The Ems are playing at PK Park all weekend.

How would each of these activities be different, sans automobile? Aren’t you curious?

Bring a book or a friend, so the extra time won’t feel wasted. Almost any trip you take will be a little longer but a lot easier. You’ll spend more but better time, discovering new things.

Oregon Country Fair leaders have devised a clever alternative to purchasing carbon offsets, which function like modern-day indulgences, assuaging the guilt of event organizers and attendees. And so, good for them — providing car-free travel options to a couple hundred thousand neighbors is more satisfying than planting some trees in a bulldozed rain forest.

Who will follow these leaders? Oregon Bach Festival? TrackTown USA? Lane Transit District should promote this option to other groups and events. We love our reputation as a community committed to sustainability, so let’s get on board with this fare-free vision. We can move people from curious to occasional to regular users.

The benefits extend far beyond lessening carbon output. Riders will find themselves connecting in new ways — an unscripted Saturnalia festival, but in reverse. Once people leave their anonymizing fuel-combustion cages, they begin bumping into people they haven’t seen.

Urban planners refer to those unplanned connections as “collisions.” Skybridges connecting a parking structure with an office building are out. Better to spill commuters onto the street, where they might stop for a cookie or a latte or learn something new about their surroundings before they duck into their cubicle.

Once you remove the ton of metal and machinery between us, “collisions” become a serendipitous source of happiness and a building block for community.

So who will you bump into this weekend if you leave your car at home? There’s only one way to find out.


Don Kahle ( writes a column most Fridays for The Register-Guard and blogs

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We’re Trading Our Freedoms for Conveniences

July 4th, 2014 · No Comments

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Between your picnicking and fireworking, today would be a good day to contemplate how freedom can be taken from a nation.

While we’re being horrified by brutal dictators far away, we must remember there’s another way freedoms can be lost — by persuasion. If people become convinced they need protection, they will sacrifice their freedoms. Ask any Mafia boss.

To see how this can be done effectively, take a trip. It starts at the airport, where you will stand in a line, waiting for your turn for minimally qualified agents with badges to scan your body and belongings and make a quick determination about whether you might be a threat.

You may have noticed that some are allowed to bypass the line as participants of the TSA Pre program. These people submitted fingerprints, passed a background check, and paid for the processing costs to be less inconvenienced in airports. Convenience becomes an alternative currency as this scenario unfolds.

Once inside the airport security, you are deemed relatively risk-free. You are safe from other travelers and they are safe from you. Enjoy your trip — you’re welcome.

Then you board the plane, where power again is wielded by people with badges and uniforms. This method of enforcing order with citizen compliance requires many badges and assorted uniforms. In extreme cases, specific headgear also may be required.

If a flight attendant deems you uncooperative because you put two bags in the overhead compartment or you refuse to use headphones with your iPad or you offer to sell your sandwich to another passenger, you can be removed from the plane. Authority cannot be questioned.

Most of us never make such trouble. Civility is converted into submissiveness.

You land in another city and exit the airport, wondering whether any inspectors opened your luggage along the way. You take a shuttle to your rental car, barely noticing the sign that informs all riders that the van is equipped with video and audio surveillance.

After the shuttle bus passes over the tire spikes that allow vehicles in but not out, you pass the attractive kiosk that is reserved for Gold Card members. You proceed to the larger, dingier building where the customers who don’t regularly do business here stand in line for inferior service.

Separating “good customers” from others is becoming more common. Rather than reward good customers, it’s cheaper to show them how they’ll suffer if they don’t do whatever is necessary to maintain their gold or elite or prime status. Non-gold customers are punished with undertrained and surly staff. But everyone gets a car, eventually.

Automobile travel once was the paragon of personal freedom. No more. Police now have automated license plate scanners. Intersections are equipped with cameras, often ready to snap your photo if you run a red light. Marriages have come undone because the photo is then mailed to the residence with a summons or a bill, showing who was in the car, when and where.

The cameras are used only to identify dangerous drivers. At least that’s what we’ve been told. But nobody disputes that the cameras could do much more, now that they are in place. Combined with credit card purchases, ATM and merchant cameras, retracing anyone’s steps has become disconcertingly easy.

Many states offer car-traveling citizens an improved version of what the Soviets crudely referred to as “checkpoints.” Our government can record your travel habits, charge you a toll, and whisk you on your way with an automated monitor that’s been rebranded as “EZ Pass.” It does everything the Soviet system envisioned, and more.

For even more specific location information, we all have our phones. This week I received an automated alert on my phone that a tornado warning was in effect for the area where I was visiting. Does anyone believe the government has the capability to send us such alerts without also knowing who received them?

The government sends those alerts to protect us, but are we losing the ability — or even the will — to protect ourselves? We cannot require both protection and independence.

Today remember — our protectors may not always be the ones we’d choose.


Don Kahle ( writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs

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Homework Before Education Contract Talks Continue

June 27th, 2014 · 2 Comments

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It appears that negotiations between the Eugene School District and the Eugene Education Association have stalled. Neither side will characterize the situation as an impasse, because educators know that words matter. But also nobody has described the current positions of the school board and the teacher’s union as “close.”

Negotiators now are planning to take a break until August, resuming their work just weeks before the new school year begins. I suppose they can insist, as high schoolers who have been given a summer reading list often do, that they do their best work under pressure. Putting things off for a month is no big deal, especially if it’s a sunny month.

A month apart should give both sides time to do some additional research before they return to the negotiating table. Let’s review what we’ve already learned and then see if we can chart a new course for the talks ahead.

Both sides certainly agree that the education of the city’s children must be everyone’s first concern. If a magic wand could be waved that would instantly eliminate all expenses that don’t help children learn, the only negotiating point would be who gets to wave the wand. We’re all in agreement on that.

The next point of agreement is more a matter of local and historical pride. Our school principals are given wide latitude to run their schools in ways that fit the teachers and the students inside their buildings. This local autonomy has contributed greatly to the vibrant mix of neighborhood and specialty schools that our community enjoys.

With so many different styles and emphases available in our education system, parents can and do choose schools that will increase their child’s learning opportunities.

We love our students and we love our schools. We’d like to see smaller classes, so teachers can give each of their students more attention. Teachers would like more prep time so this attention can be more purposeful and productive.

So the only sticking point is money, but not even that is a real point of disagreement. Both sides want to spend every dollar available on maintaining and improving education quality. Neither side has publicly advocated any sort of tax increase.

Dig a little deeper and it’s clear that the tussle is not over revenue, but expenses. All the money coming in should be spent, but spent on what? Do we want more teachers, but fewer salary increases? Better health care benefits, but fewer teacher aides? Better classroom supply budgets, but more furlough days?

You can see why both sides want to take a break.

Here’s a different way to look at things that might help both sides articulate the priorities that express their core values. In pedagogical terms, creating a diversion can reveal patterns from a new perspective. In language the rest of us understand, it’s easiest to untie a knot by tugging on whatever’s loose.

In 2005, a Utah entrepreneur named Patrick Byrne thought he had developed an elegant equation education reform. He advocated that at least 65 percent of all education revenue be spent in the classrooms. He wanted to lessen what he perceived to be administrative bloat, but his proposal went nowhere. Byrne went back to running

A related idea was floated in California a decade earlier. Reformers there sought to limit school district’s administrative overhead to a fixed percentage of the entire budget. That proposal also went nowhere. Defining who should be counted as an administrator turned out to be difficult.

But identifying where each district employee does their work would be easy. We can build on our tradition of local school autonomy and put our dollars as close to the children as possible. Administration is a key component to an efficient and effective education system, but locating more of that talent in the schools will prevent any “ivory tower” mentality.

So here’s a question for both sides to consider during their July break from negotiations:

What percentage of the school district’s personnel budget has been, is, and should be spent inside its administrative headquarters at 200 N. Monroe Street? Return prepared to discuss.


Don Kahle ( writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs.

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Are We Losing a Generation to Drinking and Debt?

June 20th, 2014 · No Comments

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Now that the students have vacated for their summer break, can we have an adult conversation? Higher education is in the middle of a crisis, imperiling an entire generation. It has many apparent causes, but really only one. Not every high school graduate is ready to be treated as an adult. The systems of support and protection that have grown or been built around them require modesty and self-reflection — traits not always associated with teenagers.

Camille Paglia wrote in Time Magazine this spring that we should lower the drinking age to 18 to bring the college drinking culture out of the shadows. Washington Post columnist George Will callously wrote last week that the so-called campus rape epidemic is neither surprising nor undeserved. The compassionate response is surely between these two posts, but finding it will require frank discussions.

Paglia points to European cultures where alcohol isn’t conjoined to teenage rebellion. She reasons that any 18-year-old who can die in a military uniform should also be allowed to drink alcohol while contemplating that. Her argument makes sense until you consider that such cultural trends are made up of millions of individuals’ lives.

My sons’ first pediatrician once sympathized with our frustrations with parenting. He probably overdid it when he said that he wished “children were like pancakes. You should be able to throw out the first ones.” I don’t know whether the good doctor came to work drunk that day or what. I’m sure we all agree that children are not as disposable as pancakes.

Will argues that a culture of entitlement and political correctness has led to an addictive victimhood. Earning respect, in his view, has been deemed difficult — and so beyond the reach — of young people. It’s easier to blame others for what happens to you. Reactions to his column would have been less severe if he had simply insisted that this generation stay off his lawn.

Both Will and Paglia agree that young people seem unable to cope with their freedoms. Our recent imbroglio concerning three male basketball players and a freshman co-ed demonstrates that power is being wielded by those unable or unwilling to weigh all the consequences.

If you believe that exchange was exceptional, I would invite you to visit the 18th Avenue Safeway on a Thursday or Friday afternoon. Listen to the checkout-line banter between the beer-toting students.

Drunkenness has become a rite, but one without a passage.

Drinking and debauchery may seem only like bad weekend choices, except decisions and debt lead to delayed development.

Not very long ago, students received guidance from high school counselors, faculty advisors, and attentive parents. The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) disassembled that network. The 1974 law’s intent was to protect students’ privacy, but it’s also shielded college faculty and campus administrators from difficult conversations with concerned parents.

Young people have been left to navigate very adult waters with a still-developing set of emotional, social and cognitive paddles. No wonder they drink.

The average college graduate is leaving school with over $30,000 in debt, often at rates that cannot be renegotiated. Graduate students commonly accumulate $100,000 mortgaged against their future. Bankruptcy offers no protection from most student loan indebtedness. Many young people are altering family or career plans by prioritizing debt reduction.

I’m sorry, but I have to ask. Has this generation internalized the doctor’s pancake metaphor? Are they throwing away their future with an unmarketable degree, social scars from excessive partying, and massive debt?

We have an attractive and inventive university here, so we can push ourselves from difficult discussions to difficult actions. Deans can reward professors who teach popular and important classes on Friday mornings, giving students an academic reason to skip “Thirsty Thursday” specials at local bars.

Faculty advisors can be given new tools and proper incentives to assist students with whatever struggles they face. Our admission packet can include a durable power of attorney form, allowing parents to pierce the FERPA shield and access their child’s academic and financial records.

Nothing less than a complete turnaround will suffice. In pancake parlance, it’s time to flip what’s on the griddle.


Don Kahle ( writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs.

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Councilors Should Let Others Do Their Homework

June 13th, 2014 · No Comments

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I’m opposed to the year-round school calendar, for the same reasons that proponents favor it. They decry the lost momentum for learning and the legitimization of laziness. I believe those breaks are necessary for children to reflect on what they’ve learned, consolidate what matters to them, and — yes — forget most of the rest.

If you hope ever to do work that involves genuine problem-solving, you must learn to harness the power of so-called laziness. We busy ourselves with operational questions of what, who, when and where — but that leaves precious little mental space to consider how and why. The sad result is that we often do things well that don’t need doing.

I bring this up right now not because students are beginning their summer recess. They haven’t yet been talked out of the value of doing nothing. I’m thinking instead about the Eugene City Council. Sure, they always take August off and that’s a good start. But I’m begging our elected leaders to slack off more during these long summer days.

Ironically, if they do less work, more work might get done. Not every good thing in life has to be hard.

They’ve seen this strategy work. Faced with a decaying street grid after years of neglected maintenance, these leaders campaigned for dedicated road funding. That was the hard part, and voters responded affirmatively. Then came the easy part. They appointed a committee to sift through the data and begin scheduling repairs. Bids came in below estimates, work was done quickly and efficiently, and every part of town saw improvements.

When it came time to extend the program’s financing, citizens voted in even larger numbers to continue the work. It’s important to acknowledge the important role the city’s top political representatives assumed in this success story. They appointed citizens to do the work, provided policy directives, and then stayed out of their way.

This council understands better than others in our recent past that strength is more important than power. By relinquishing some power, they have gained the strength of public support. They’ve been able to accomplish more by actually doing less of the work themselves.

If it worked with potholes, it can work with the Urban Growth Boundary. Oregon’s visionary land-use laws require cities to set aside urban lands to accommodate growth projections for the next twenty years. Local citizens plunged into the complexities of the process over four years ago.

Envision Eugene began with 80 civic leaders meeting in a church gymnasium. We knew then that finding common ground between all participants would require an act of faith. We also understood that if we stayed in our comfortable and opposing camps, any vision of community consensus didn’t have a prayer.

After several months, smaller groups formed to dig more deeply into the data. Everyone pushed beyond their comfort zones and learned how to identify the values we all share when we “envision Eugene.”

Some would say the group itself did something miraculous. Conservationists and developers broke bread together. Both the Homebuilders Association and 1,000 Friends of Oregon sent representatives.

A “Technical Resource Group” dug into the data itself. No one was allowed to hide behind vague platitudes, sweeping generalizations, or aspirational assertions.

Not every residential infill project will degrade a neighborhood’s character. Not every brownfield should be redeveloped for our industrial land needs.

This group looked at individual tax lots. They couldn’t have gotten any more detailed in their analysis without violating people’s Fourth Amendment right to privacy in their own homes. Any agreements that brought these civic leaders together are rooted in facts on the ground. This is not a case of summer Kumbaya.

These volunteers have invested tens of thousands of hours studying almost every scenario for urban growth that’s been imagined. They’ve sought out experts, weighed competing opinions, discussed their findings with one another, and kept at it for several years. If any group has ever done their homework, this is it.

Eugene City Council should recognize the immense effort behind each recommendation coming from this group, resisting the temptation to redo the work themselves.


Don Kahle ( has been active in Envision Eugene, but was not a member of the Technical Resource Group. He writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs at

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Let a Thousand Celebrations Bloom This August

June 6th, 2014 · No Comments

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I feel a teensy bit responsible.

Last September I suggested that the Eugene Celebration may have run its course. It had done a great job for decades filling empty retail spaces, attracting people to an otherwise desolate downtown, and raising optimism about the center of our city — however temporary and alcohol-fueled that optimism may have been.

Now that downtown is becoming a legitimate hub of civic activity, bringing hordes into the area for one weekend in August also drives away the regular customers who support those businesses.

So I suggested we kill it. But that’s only half of what I wrote. I also proposed that we allow new ideas to fill its void. When a mighty tree falls in the forest, sunshine suddenly streams to the soil and a thousand flowers can bloom in its place.

Kesey Enterprises felled that timber this week, though they insist they are suspending the festival for only one year. They have followed the playbook of Corvallis’s daVinci Days, except daVinci Days’ leaders gave their community almost ten months’ warning.

We’ve been given ten weeks. That’s not much time.

So be it. We can demonstrate the can-do spirit that Cynthia Wooten and others believed would make the first Eugene Celebration successful in 1983.

Kit Kesey should start the ball rolling and lend the festival’s name to the organizers of the Whiteaker Block Party. If Kesey and his staff are genuinely looking for a better model for 2015’s festival, the Whiteaker model deserves primary consideration. It features local musicians spread over ten stages and 13 hours, hundreds of volunteers, and no admission cost.

The street party in the city’s “fermentation district” has quietly grabbed the mantle of summer cool as Eugene Celebration has been shedding it.

How do we let itinerate street performers know they are welcome all over downtown? Buskers need no stage, sound system, publicity or planning — only an impromptu space to perform, an audience, and a hat for collecting tips.

We don’t really need the expensive infrastructure that has stapled the last decade of Celebrations together.

Eugene’s city staff should throw open its permit window and offer anyone with an August celebration idea the opportunity to try it this year with as little regulatory interference as possible. Give restaurants and downtown bars a weekend of sidewalk serving privileges for minimal or no expense. If we want a thousand flowers to bloom, staying out of their way is a good place to begin.

City staff can get in on the action by quickly assembling a team of volunteers for a downtown version of its Sunday Streets. They have plans for a street fair in July and another in September, but August now is sun-shiningly open. If a spontaneous parade emerged, no one would complain.

Other public agencies should follow suit. Eugene’s 4J School District could rent Civic Stadium to the group that wants to preserve it as a sport and entertainment venue for a weekend of concerts and fireworks.

EWEB has big plans for its riverfront acreage. All four teams vying for the opportunity to develop those 17 acres should be invited to give the public a temporary taste of what they envision.

Eugene’s abundant riverfront parkland should teem with activity all weekend. I’m picturing a huge tug-of-war across the Peter DeFazio footbridge between residents who live on each side of the river. (Come to think of it, the bridge itself would inappropriately lessen the stakes.)

Eugene Emeralds could play a pick-up baseball game for charity. The University of Oregon’s football team could have one, single open practice, followed by a pie-eating contest.

Downtown developer Brian Obie hopes to lure a movie theater to his 6th Avenue mixed-use complex, so let him erect an inflatable screen in one of the area’s parking lots and offer free movies for families.

Once you begin adding it altogether, filling the fourth weekend in August will not be much of a challenge. We could easily fill every August weekend to properly demonstrate how much celebrating there is to be done here.


Don Kahle ( writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs at You can read his earlier column on the topic at

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Fifth Friday Fripperies (Little Morsels of Sense or Nonsense)

May 30th, 2014 · No Comments

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Fifth Friday Footnotes, Follow-ups and Far-Flung Fripperies:

• When you stop and think about it, “Happy Memorial Day” sends a confusing message.
• I want to support friends who share sad news on Facebook, but I feel uncomfortable hitting the “Like” button.
• How did hipsters fall so in love with brunch?
• I predict future generations will be amazed that we got along with unchilled, tepid water coming out of our “cold” faucet. Ice cubes will seem a hilarious work-around.
• Few who use the phrase “preaching to the choir” have ever been in a pulpit or a choir.
• Whoever first added the suffix “ish” to a time post deserves a Nobel Peace Prize. How many fights have been prevented with this elegant approximator?
• Be honest. When was the last time you heard the word “suffix”?
• High-speed stock traders shouldn’t get an unfair advantage. Yet some think creating a “fast lane” for the Internet is a good idea. Uneven playing fields will be exploited. That’s not foretelling the future. That’s telling the truth.
• There’s a fine line between ego strength and arrogance. The mystery is this: arrogance is usually evidence of too little ego strength, not too much.
• Life is measured more accurately with a slide rule than a tape measure. The world may seem linear and straightforward, until we begin moving through it.
• A Eugene comedian coined a very useful term. He’s 23, graduated from college, looking for work, and living at home. He described himself as a “stay-at-home son.” For those of us who remember “stay-at-home moms,” just the term explains a lot.
• Nothing prevents people from being loved more than their insatiable need to be liked.
• Are there any sports that use more than one ball? I came up with billiards, croquet, marbles, bocci and juggling. No contact sports.
• Beauty is frightening to many, but a disinhibitor for some.
• Shoe stores that don’t sell shoelaces are part of the problem.
• It’s slowly dawning on us how much of what we called freedom of information relied on inconvenience to keep it in check. A Spanish businessman has sued Google to “forget” a transaction that went sour decades ago. Local police scanners are being encrypted because anyone with a smart phone has access. Once we switch to digital money (for convenience’s sake), won’t every penny spent and received be trackable forever?
• Whatever happened to Kevin Cape?
• Philosophy is what simple people do when they want to feel complex.
• She’s such a pacifist, she refuses to wear bangs.
• We shave too much.
• Fusion cuisine is all the rage. And yet fission cuisine never really took off.
• Hatchbacks were a good idea.
• Insiderism is often an undetected intoxicant.
• Now that the city of Eugene has decided that a year-long test of a redesigned Willamette Street is a good idea, what other issues might be resolved in the same way? Could Fred Meyer build the largest pop-up store ever inside Civic Stadium? Homeless camps not populated with homeless people? Inflatable EmX stations? Our motto could be: “Pretend to build it, and if they come, then build it.”
• I’m not surprised flip-flops have broken into the fashion scene, but I would have guessed they’d trade in their onomatopoeic name.
• I wonder if street thieves consider footwear when looking for targets. No one wearing flip-flops is planning to win a footrace.
• One thing I never get used to in Washington, DC is the number of people who commute by helicopter.
• If you can’t be in two places at once, the next best thing is to be in two time zones at once. When I work from the East Coast, it’s like having a 27-hour day.
• I don’t trust movie reviews written by vegetarians. They deny their tastebuds to make the world or themselves better. So why wouldn’t they also praise a film in pursuit of some larger ideal instead of whether it’s simply a good movie?
• I’m no longer middle-aged, unless there are some 112-year-olds in the room.
• Why do striped sheets always follow the length and never the width of the bed? Do we want to look thinner and feel taller in our dreams?


Don Kahle ( writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs

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Commencement: Computers Cannot (Really) Hear You

May 23rd, 2014 · No Comments

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Our Western culture has too few rites of passage. I’ll never forget the first Bar Mitzvah I attended, because the expectations on the young man being celebrated were extraordinary and unambiguous. It’s harder to take manhood lightly when, in order to achieve it, you had to learn Hebrew, exegete a passage of the Torah, play violin for a synagogue full of family friends, and then sit in adult conversations for the rest of the afternoon.

I look at commencement ceremonies through that lens. It may come late as a passage into adulthood, but it’s one of the best rites we offer young people. University of Oregon and Lane Community College have mid-June graduations, so they haven’t announced their commencement speakers yet. When they do, there may be protests. Protesting commencement speakers has become a springtime hobby for people who don’t like jogging or chasing birds with binoculars.

I’ve delivered a couple of commencement addresses myself, so I always have one handy. You never know when a protested speaker might back out at the last minute.


Thank you for inviting me to speak. I believe every speech should set its length by how comfortably the audience is dressed. What could be less comfortable than single-use polyester gowns and mortarboards? So this will be appropriately brief.

Please recall the funniest story you’ve ever heard. Let’s be silent for a moment, while you imagine me telling that story. (Pause.) Now, with that out of the way, let me get to my three recommendations as you begin — “commence” — whatever is ahead for you. You’ll be pleased to know that two of these tasks can be done on your smart phone.

First, just once and in a single sitting, read the terms and conditions for software that you use. If it’s Apple’s iTunes, that’s 15,066 words. Facebook has fewer words, but incorporates ten additional pages of further agreements. When the King of England read the Declaration of Independence (1,337 words), he knew exactly what he was getting into.

It may take you an hour to read one of these agreements entirely. It’ll make you mad — partly because it would take so much longer to actually comprehend it, and partly because you have no choice. The efficiency of the Internet requires that everybody play by the same rules. One of the rules is pretending that you understand the rules.

They’ll tell you that individual expression is flourishing on the Internet and it is, so long as your individual expression is the same as everyone else’s.

So second, turn off Auto-Correct. You can take out your iPhone now, if you don’t already have it out. Go to Settings, then General, then Keyboard, then slide Auto-Correction to Off. Now your phone won’t make you look smarter than you are, and that’s a good start.

Auto-Correct doesn’t understand the value of mistakes. I misspelled “capital” on my first day as a copy editor. Do you think I’ve misspelled it since? Nothing could be further from the truth — which I know, because I once used “farther,” when “further” was correct. We learn from our mistakes. We must not let our computers take that away from us.

Mistakes make us better. They also make us unique. I could always tell when notes from my children contained lies, because their spelling — only then — was impeccable. If you want to be understood but not known, then conform. Don’t call attention to yourself. Auto-Correct promotes conformity. It helps computers understand, while it’s keeping us from being known.

Knowing is deeper than understanding, and only people do it well.

Which brings me to my final point today. Pick up a pen or pencil and master your own handwriting. It’s simple. It’s everywhere. It’s part of you.

No matter what the future brings, you express yourself every time you jot. Whether it’s a thank you note, a ransom letter, or the grocery list in your pocket the day you die, you leave a mark. It’s noticed by others, whether they know it or not. Those lines on paper shape your voice in the world. Make that voice your own.

Now good luck.


Don Kahle ( writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs

→ No CommentsTags: Arr-Gee published · Deep · Psycho